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Posted November 21, 2013
I fell in love with Tasha Ivey's storytelling earlier this year when I read her debut, Destiny Ever-changing. Ms. Ivey seems to have a knack for creating such genuine characters and her stories are compelling, yet comfortable. Every Breath...it really rocked me. It gripped me from the beginning and left me feeling warm and fuzzy in the end.
Makenna Madison lost her Happily Ever After when her fiance died, two years ago. To keep her family and friends from suffering her heartache, she pastes a smile on her face and move through each day. Makenna is such a selfless and caring young woman. She's a second grade teacher and is truly passionate about her job. She stays close with her parents and her best friend, Callie - but emotionally, she's closed herself off. When Callie sets her up with the high school football coach, Makenna does her best to move forward with life.
Drew seems like a good man. He's kind and he's patient with Makenna. He knows something happened to her and he's willing to wait until she feels comfortable talking with him about it. He's even understanding about Makenna's inability to move past platonic with him. Meeting Drew's parents, though, makes Makenna wonder if she really knows Drew.
Things get complicated when Makenna begins chatting with Sawyer, the soldier whom her class wrote a holiday letter to. As she gets to know Sawyer better, she starts asking herself why she's able to open up to Sawyer and share things with him that she hasn't shared with anyone. And once Sawyer comes home, Makenna begins to have feelings she thought she'd never have again. But Sawyer is hiding something...something that could ruin everything.
Every Breath has a robust cast of characters including Callie, Makenna's best friend, and Callie's husband Wes, who happens to be her dead fiance's brother, William, Sawyer's father-figure, and others. What I adore about Ms. Ivey's characters is how comfortable they are. They're easy to connect to, Reading Every Breath felt like being a part of this community and I became very invested in its inhabitants. I was devastated when Callie laid out her ultimatum for Makenna - talk about tough love. And I wanted to thunk Makenna in the head when she made poor decisions. I wanted to scoop Sawyer up into a big hug - a hug symbolic of all the hugs I'd like to give all our soldiers for the jobs they do. And I bit my nails in suspense over what was going to happen between Makenna, Drew, and Sawyer.
The way in which Ms. Ivey worked in the hand of fate in Every Breath was a delight. I'm a big believer in things working out how they should so the fact that Ms. Ivey worked that into the story really appealed to me. Watching Makenna trying to move forward by forcing things while what she needed was right in front of her - it was heady.
It was a pleasure to watch Makenna come out of her emotional coma and Sawyer played a huge role in that. At first, Makenna's contact with him was only meant to serve as a connection to home for Sawyer. But he had a way of coaxing Makenna out of herself. The bonus was in the healing they both provided the other.
On a side note, I enjoyed all the literary references woven into the story. I know Ms. Ivey is a Jane Austen fan, as am I, so those references were fun. But there were others as well and I enjoyed that. Ms. Ivey also included music references...and with the exception of those made to the 80s, I was lost. But I'm now a fan of Boyce Avenue. :) I see music as poetry and the inclusion of lyrics was a nice touch.
Every Breath deals with some heavy subjects - death, war, PTSD, drug addiction. I think it was a very personal story for Ms. Ivey. It's emotional, tense, heartbreaking, and very real. And it's a beautifully rendered story of a second chance at love - a second chance at life. Ultimately, it was uplifting and heartwarming and amazing.
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